She insists on gauging her journey in show business not from her debut film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge but from the days of TV serial Shanti on Doordarshan in 1994 to the yet-to-be-aired high profile serial 24 on Colors.
"Shanti was the first ever daily soap on Indian television. It is nearly 20 years ago and things have changed dramatically now," says Mandira Bedi, who is excited about her new show that is being aired from next month.
Mandira seems to make it a habit of being the first for many things. If Shanti was the first entertainment serial, 24 is the first TV serial, where a big star from Bollywood, Anil Kapoor, is acting in the main lead.
So far, several big names like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra and others have been part of the television industry in reality shows but never in serials. In fact, 24 is the first serial to see big names like Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi and others taking on the TV media.
"When Shanti happened, there was only DD as the main entertainment channel. Now there are hordes of them. The number of shows has increased manifold. Even technique has changed," reminisces Mandira, or Mandy, as she is fondly addressed by her friends.
She is glad that Abhinay Deo, director of 24 serial, approached her for the role. "I used to meet him casually at some party or get together. I am glad this happened as somehow people had forgotten me as an actor. I had become a popular events host, anchor person but not an actor," recalled Mandira.
Indian Idol Junior, which ended its season’s run on Sony TV recently, was being hosted by Mandira, besides Karan Wahi. Much before this, she became popular hosting cricket shows — ICC Trophy (2003, 2007), Champions Trophy (2004, 2006) and IPL season 2, other reality shows, etc.
"My noodle strap blouses got more written and talked about than anything else," laughingly she comments about her time on the cricket shows.
It wasn’t as though she wasn’t acting at all. She did bits of roles in serials like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Aurat and Dushman. But nothing major happened in her career till 24, a serial which has been officially adapted from American serial of the same name and talks about the works of an anti-terrorist cell in India. Anil Kapoor, the main protagonist in the Hindi version, had acted in the original as Omar Hassan, an Islamic leader to be assassinated by terrorists.
Married to film producer and director Raj Kaushal, Mandira says, "My character Nikita Rai is based on the role of Nina Mayers of the original serial. She is a strong-willed character, fiercely loyal, serious and a senior member of an anti-terrorist squad. The first thing I had to learn for this character was to wield holstered pistol! That was great fun."
She admitted that her entry into the serial was delayed as she was committed to Indian Idol Junior. And the reason for her inability to attend the workshops conducted for the actors, she says, "But I learnt it fast enough. This serial which was shot like a film and is extremely fast-paced will break the clutter of programmes on TV."
At present, she doesn’t have any intention of planning ahead. "The music reality show I was hosting has just got over. Besides this series, I have recently been busy with the launch of my sari line. Besides, we are also in the process of adopting a baby girl. So at present, my hands are full," explained Mandira Bedi.